Note ban, lynchings, activists’ arrests mark JNU pre-election debate
Amid cheers and slogans, eight presidential candidates for this year’s Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union (JNUSU) elections took to the stage late on Wednesday night to woo voters for one last time before the code of conduct comes into force.
The debate this year was more intense as the JNU students poll comes right before the crucial 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Wednesday’s debate saw national-level issues — cases of mob lynching, demonetisation, anti-national forces and the recent arrests of activists — being raised by the candidates instead of local campus related concerns.
By 9:30pm, the entire stretch to Jhelum lawns from Ganga dhabha was flooded with students crowding around to hear what the presidential candidates had to promise. Amid the sound of loud tambourines and roaring slogans like “Jai bheem” and “laal salaam”, conch shells were blown every time a candidate delivered a good one-liner.
Eight candidates are competing for the top post of the students’ union this year, for which polls will be held on Friday.
However, the manner in which the candidates of Left unity— AISA, AISF, DSF and SFI—and RSS-affiliated Akhil Bhartiya Vidhayarthi Parishad (ABVP) stirred the crowd made it very apparent that the battle this year will primarily between the two.
In their speeches, while ABVP’s candidate Lalit Pandey alleged that “anti-national” elements present at the campus was trying to suppress ‘freedom of speech’, united-left’s candidate N Sai Balaji attacked the Centre for turning India into ‘lynchistan’.
“They talk about freedom of speech and expression. They are trying to suppress the voice of sanity on the campus. We will take care of all these anti-national forces if we get elected in the JNUSU,” Pandey said. The ABVP had stood second in all four central panel posts — president, vice-president, general secretary and joint secretary —last year.
Referring to “Bhima Koregaon” incident, Balaji said, “The government is trying to intimidate all the voices of dissent. But, they will not be able to show their face anywhere after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The public will reject them and reclaim our lost space for dissent.”
Meanwhile, Thallapelli Praveen, candidate of Birsa Ambedkar Phule Student Association, which has emerged as a strong opposition in last three years, asked student to think beyond the politics of Left and Right.
A first time contender from Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Jayant Kumar, promised to make higher education assessable for those coming from the marginalised section of society.
Four independent candidates are also contesting for the top post.